Collaborative Divorce Agreements
COLLABORATE, DON’T LITIGATE!
Divorce is an ugly 7-letter word: if you have children, it is worse. Many attorneys in states other than Montana offer what’s called “collaborative” divorces. Because of its size, and the lack of sufficient numbers of attorneys (yes, I’m saying there aren’t enough attorneys, contrary to popular belief!), a completely structured collaborative law process or statute in Montana is just a gleam in my eye. . .however, a form of collaboration will work here and is currently working in the Kalispell area. Here’s what it’s about:
Under a collaborative system, the parties agree from the get go that they will try NOT to litigate their issues (unless the process of negotiating completely breaks down). They each have an attorney and the process of disclosures/division of assets and liabilities, crafting a parenting plan, and dealing with maintenance and child support is done, if not face-to-face, then at least in a cooperative setting. The attorneys that are hired must sign an agreement that they, themselves, will not represent either party in any litigation that does occur, if any. The key here is cooperation; relationships involving domestic violence, abuse of any nature or mental illnesses usually won’t work collaboratively.
The parties also, if necessary, hire jointly any “experts” they may need including appraisers, parenting evaluators, psychologist/psychiatrists, GAL(s) for the children or a mediator, etc, so that, instead of a battle of experts, the parties cooperatively disclose everything they should to a single expert in the necessary field of expertise, and that expert’s evaluation and recommendations are, essentially, binding on both parties. The key here is cooperation; relationships involving domestic violence, abuse of any nature or mental illnesses usually won’t work collaboratively.
I practice a modified version of the above in my firm as most family lawyers in Kalispell and elsewhere in Montana try to work out resolutions that are in the best interests of all the family members, which is how a divorce should be resolved! If an appraisal of a home, for example, is needed, a qualified appraiser or realtor can be used by both parties. This avoids “expert-shopping” and, more importantly, conflict.
Can this work for you? A divorce that works for the whole family? It should, and it can.